Did Carl Edwards drop hint he may not stay with Roush Fenway Racing after this season?

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Carl Edwards has played his cards extremely close to the vest on whether or not he’ll remain with Roush Fenway Racing once his contract expires at the end of this season.

But before Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway, Edwards was left flustered and stammered a bit when Fox Sports announcer Darrell Waltrip came right out and asked Edwards bluntly, “Can you win a championship at Roush?”

It was rather obvious Edwards was taken back by Waltrip’s question and was not prepared for it.

“That’s a good question,” Edwards said. “I think we can, I mean we’ve been very close. We sure looked real close at it, but we just haven’t got it done. It’s been 10 years and really, overall that’s my goal. I believe if I work hard enough and Roush works hard enough, I believe we can do it.”

But then Edwards may have inadvertently slipped and gave what appeared to be a potential hint that he very well may be in his last year at RFR.

“There’s not a better year than this year with Jimmy Fennig, the Chase format, and finishing Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead, so yes, I know we can and we have to do it this year. We’ve just got to keep digging,” Edwards said.

The key phrase in that quote: “We have to do it this year.”

Such a phrase, at least on the surface, gives the implication that winning a championship – or at least coming close – will be the ultimate decision-maker for Edwards to remain at RFR for another three seasons.

That, plus his comment about being at RFR for 10 years and having no Cup championships to show for it, are also good hints for clue hunters.

And, you could also draw a possible conclusion that Edwards wants — and needs — to win a championship this season because it very well may be his last with his current team at RFR. If he’s going to leave RFR, he apparently wants to go out as a champion.

Edwards has twice finished runner-up in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He actually tied Tony Stewart for the title in 2011, only to lose out when NASCAR was forced to settle things by the first tie-breaker: the most wins by both drivers.

Stewart won his third Cup crown by virtue of having five wins in that season – all which came in the 10-race Chase that season – to just one triumph by Edwards.

Not normally one to be flustered so easily, Edwards eventually regained his composure in the Fox interview, but did admit “You guys snuck up on me with that one.”

As for whether he has a timetable to make a decision to stay with RFR or go, Edwards went back to holding his cards close to the vest.

“It’s a big question, it’s something that I have to put a lot of thought into, and other than Darrell (Waltrip), I appreciate everyone giving me a lot of space to do this privately,” Edwards said with a laugh.

Edwards’ comments came one day after teammate Greg Biffle said he planned on staying with Roush Fenway Racing. (Or did he?)

During his weekly media availability with reporters at Kansas on Friday, it was pretty clear Edwards was not going to budge from his “no comment” line about potentially becoming a free agent and moving to another team.

“You guys know that I don’t like to talk about that stuff in the media,” Edwards told reporters. “To me, that is business and I have made the mistake of letting that turn into a big media thing before so I would rather not talk about that and keep that between me and Jack (team co-owner Jack Roush) and (RFR President) Steve Newmark.”

Edwards went through a similar process in 2011, when his previous deal was coming to an end. For several months, he had fans, media and even members of his RFR family whether he would be staying or going at the end of that season.

A spate of rumors back then had Edwards going to Joe Gibbs Racing, to be the driver for a fourth JGR team.

Eventually, Edwards decided to remain with RFR and signed a three-year contract extension, which is the same extension that expires at the end of this season.

Edwards has already seen former RFR teammate Matt Kenseth, who many thought would be a lifer with the organization, pull up stakes after the 2012 season and moved to JGR, where he enjoyed the best season of his career in 2013 with a career-best seven wins.

Edwards has also seen what Kevin Harvick has done – two wins thus far – since moving this season to Stewart Haas Racing from his long-time home at Richard Childress Racing.

When asked if some teams may be more enticing to him than others, Edwards wouldn’t give reporters any indication one way or other.

“Part of me not talking about it would be not answering that question,” he said.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds